I know that when I was working it out for myself I had no technical background and no understanding of programming. After getting so far with it, I went to university to fill in the blanks. The most relevant local course was Multimedia Systems, which had some background/theory and some web-related modules.
It’s great to find out by trial and error and figure it out for yourself; in many ways that’s a great way to learn. I’m thinking that as someone very new to the field comes in, there’s so much they’re not aware of which isn’t directly related to technology:
- Accessibility – how do people use websites? how can differently-abled people use websites? What prohibits easy use?
- Colours – ever done and colour theory, know which colours work together? Ever considered colour-blindness?
- Typography – there are a relatively small number of web-safe fonts, but which work best on the web? What about spacing and using typography as part of design?
- Copy-writing – what’s the best way of writing for the web? How does it differ from other media channels?
- Security – aside from technical issues; do you want to share everything publicly on your site? Do you know how your site could be vulnerable?
I feel that most if not all of these kind of issues transcend whether you’re wanting to go down the design or development route (or both) and maybe there’s room for some kind of semi-formal teaching about this stuff for those that are interested from school to university levels.
Start with your eyes wide open.